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Main Intelligence Directorate (Russia)

GRU Generalnogo Shtaba
Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije
Главное Разведывательное Управление
Agency overview
Formed November 5, 1918, GRU since 1942
Preceding Agency 5th Department of the Russian Imperial Chief of Staff
Jurisdiction President of Russia
Headquarters Khoroshevskoye shosse 76, Khodinka, Moscow
Agency executive Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, Director
Parent agency Russian Ministry of Defense
Website Official Page

Main Intelligence Directorate (Russian: Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, tr. Glavnoye razvedyvatel'noye upravleniye; IPA: ), abbreviated GRU (Russian: ГРУ; IPA: ) is the foreign military intelligence main directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union). The official full name is Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Russian: Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние Генера́льного шта́ба Вооружённых Сил Росси́йской Федера́ции). It is also known as GRU GSh (Russian: ГРУ ГШ; abbreviation of ГРУ Генера́льного шта́ба, tr. GRU Generalnovo Shtaba (English: GRU of the General Staff)).

The GRU is Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency.[1] In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, the successor of the KGB's foreign operations directorate. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.[2]

The current GRU Director is Lieutenant General Igor Sergun.[3]


  • History 1
  • Activities 2
    • GRU Spetsnaz 2.1
    • History 2.2
    • Listing of brigades 2.3
    • Spetsnaz weapons 2.4
  • Miscellaneous 3
    • Chechnya 3.1
    • Baranov 3.2
    • Agents 3.3
      • 21st century 3.3.1
    • Historical "illegals" 3.4
    • Naval agents 3.5
    • Defectors 3.6
  • Chairmen 4
  • Fictional uses 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


GRU Official emblem (until 2009) with motto engraved: "Greatness of Motherland in your glorious deeds"

The GRU first predecessor in post-tsarist Russia was created on October 21, 1918 under the sponsorship of Leon Trotsky, who was then the civilian overseer of the Red Army;[4] it was originally known as the Registration Directorate (Registrupravlenie, or RU). Simon Aralov was its first head. In his history of the early years of the GRU, Raymond W. Leonard writes:

As originally established, the Registration Department was not directly subordinate to the General Staff (at the time called the Red Army Field Staff – Polevoi Shtab). Administratively, it was the Third Department of the Field Staff's Operations Directorate. In July 1920, the RU was made the second of four main departments in the Operations Directorate. Until 1921, it was usually called the Registrupr (Registration Department). That year, following the [5]
It was given the task of handling all military intelligence, particularly the collection of intelligence of military or political significance from sources outside the Soviet Union. The GRU operated residencies all over the world, along with the SIGINT (signals intelligence) station in Lourdes, Cuba, and throughout the former Soviet bloc countries, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The first head of the 4th Directorate was Janis Karlovich Berzin, a Latvian Communist and former member of the Cheka, who remained in the post until 28 November 1937, when he was arrested and subsequently liquidated during Joseph Stalin's purges.

The GRU was well known in the Soviet government for its fierce independence from the rival "NKVD and KGB. At the time of the GRU's creation, Lenin infuriated the Cheka (predecessor of the KGB) by ordering it not to interfere with the GRU's operations. Nonetheless, the Cheka infiltrated the GRU in 1919. This planted the seed for a fierce rivalry between the two agencies, which were both engaged in espionage, and was even more intense than the rivalry between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency in America would be in a future time.

The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era, although documents concerning it became available in the West in the late 1920s and it was mentioned in the 1931 memoirs of the first Walter Krivitsky, the most senior Red Army intelligence officer ever to defect.[6] It became widely known in Russia, and the West outside the narrow confines of the intelligence community, during perestroika, in part thanks to the writings of "Viktor Suvorov" (Vladimir Rezun), a GRU agent who defected to Great Britain in 1978, and wrote about his experiences in the Soviet military and intelligence services. According to Suvorov, even the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union couldn't enter GRU headquarters without going through a security screening.

The GRU is still a very important part of the Russian Federation's intelligence services, especially since it was never split up like the KGB.[7] The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since been divided into the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).


GRU headquarters in Moscow

According to the human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery reconnaissance (IMINT) and satellite imagery capabilities."[8] GRU Space Intelligence Directorate has put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.[9]

According to GRU defector Kalanbe, "Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces." He also described a possibility that compact

  • Official Page in the Russian Ministry of Defense website
  • Reuters factbox on GRU
  • The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) for new evidence on Soviet espionage in the United States from GRU/KGB archival sources
  • A Blog about the GRU's history, organization, operations, etc.
  • History of military intelligence from the project (in English)
  • Information from
  • Another FAS site
  • President Putin visits new GRU headquarters
  • GRU High Command and leading GRU officers
  • Ivan Ilyichev – Head of GRU
  • GRU structure

External links

  • Павел Густерин. Советская разведка на Ближнем и Среднем Востоке в 1920—30-х годах. — Саарбрюккен, 2014. — ISBN 978-3-659-51691-7.
  • David M. Glantz. Soviet military intelligence in war. Cass series on Soviet military theory and practice ; 3. London: Cass, 1990. ISBN 0-7146-3374-7, ISBN 0-7146-4076-X
  • Raymond W. Leonard. Secret soldiers of the revolution: Soviet military intelligence, 1918-1933. Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30990-6
  • Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  • Viktor Suvorov Aquarium (Аквариум), 1985, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11545-0
  • Viktor Suvorov Inside Soviet Military Intelligence, 1984, ISBN 0-02-615510-9
  • Viktor Suvorov Spetsnaz, 1987, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11961-8

Further reading

  1. ^ "Reuters Factbox on Russian military intelligence by Dmitry Solovyov". Reuters. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Lunev, Stanislav (12 September 1997), "Changes may be on the way for the Russian security services" ( – Scholar search), The Jamestown Foundation 
  3. ^ "PRESS DIGEST – Russia – Dec 27". Reuters. 27 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Earl F. Ziemke, Russian Review 60(2001): 130.
  5. ^ Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p. 7.
  6. ^ Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution, p.xiv.
  7. ^ "Reuters Russia's Medvedev sacks military spy chief by Dmitry Solovyov Fri Apr 24, 2009". Reuters. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Operations of the Main Intelligence Administration (GRU) Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie - Russia / Soviet Intelligence Agencies". Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
  10. ^ a b c Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  11. ^ Symposium: Al Qaeda’s Nukes by Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine, October 27, 2006
  12. ^ Western leaders betray Aslan Maskhadov – by Andre Glucksmann. Prima-News, March 11, 2005
  13. ^ CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER: BASAEV WAS G.R.U. OFFICER The Jamestown Foundation, September 08, 2006
  14. ^ Analysis: Has Chechnya's Strongman Signed His Own Death Warrant? – by Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, March 1, 2005
  15. ^ Nicholas Horrock, "FBI focusing on portable nuke threat", UPI (20 December 2001).
  16. ^ Steve Goldstein and Chris Mondics, "Some Weldon-backed allegations unconfirmed; Among them: A plot to crash planes into a reactor, and missing suitcase-size Soviet atomic weapons." Philadelphia Inquirer (15 March 2006) A7.
  17. ^ "Tbilisi Claims Russian Troop Movements in Response to Spy Dispute". Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  18. ^ Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon, one headed by an ex-rebel commander, "to improve Russia's image in the Arab world" by DEBKAfile
  19. ^ Special services are making teams for extrajudicial punishment (Russian) by Igor Korolkov, Novaya Gazeta, January 11, 2007. English translation
  20. ^ Spionage gegen Deutschland — Aktuelle Entwicklungen Stand: November 2008 (German)
  21. ^ "Bat or Mouse? The Strange Case of Reforming Spetsnaz". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.34
  23. ^ a b c Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.35
  24. ^ Carey Schofield, The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces, Greenhill, London, 1993, p.37
  25. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "UNHCR - Refworld - Putin’s Military: Let the Good Times Roll". Refworld. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  26. ^ ГРУ (Главное Разведывательное Управление) ГШ ВС РФ. Russian Military Analysis (in Russian). Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  27. ^ Военно-Морской Флот. Russian Military Analysis (in Russian). Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  28. ^ Land of the warlords, by Nick Paton Walsh, Guardian Unlimited
  29. ^ Powell, Bill (2002-11-01), Treason: How a Russian Spy Led an American Journalist to a U.S. Double Agent, Simon & Schuster,  
  30. ^ Hunt, Graeme. "Spies and Revolutionaries - A History of New Zealand subversion" (Auckland: Reed, 2009), p.171
  31. ^ Milewski, Terry (2011), 5 plot lines in the Jeffrey Delisle navy spy case, CBC 
  32. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952), Witness, New York: Random House, p. 799,  


See also

Fictional uses

The Head of the Russian Military Intelligence is a military officer and is the highest ranking intelligence officer in Russia. He is the primary military intelligence adviser to the Russian Minister of Defense and to the Chief of Staff and also answers to the President of Russia.



Naval agents

Historical "illegals"

  • Jeffrey Delisle Canadian Naval officer awaiting sentencing for selling secrets "wholesale" to the GRU[31]

21st century


In 2002, Bill Powell, former Moscow bureau chief at Newsweek, wrote Treason, an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov. Baranov had been recruited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and agreed to spy for them, but was betrayed to the Russians by a mole in either the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the CIA and spent five years in prison before being released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, although speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.[29]


Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov, members of the Vladimir Putin administration, reportedly served in GRU.Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad ("East" and "West") that are controlled by the GRU. Each battalion included close to a thousand fighters,[28] until their disbandment in 2008.



Soviet Spetsnaz weaponry consisted of more streamlined, stripped-down weapons suitable for covert operations, such as the AKS-74U carbine. Modern Russian Spetsnaz weapons include the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle, SV98 sniper rifle, AK-9 assault rifle, AN-94 assault rifle, and the PP-19 Bizon submachine gun, along with older weaponry such as the AKS-74U. Specialized weaponry includes the NRS-2, a survival knife with a built-in single-shot firing mechanism able to fire an 7.62×42mm SP-4 cartridge (the same used in PSS Silent Pistol), along with the RPG-16 and plastic explosives; for urban warfare scenarios, the PKP Pecheneg LMG has also been used by Spetsnaz groups. Similar to other modern special forces organizations, Spetsnaz weaponry is selected by merit of stealth and reliability for special military operations, espionage, sabotage, or other covert actions.

Spetsnaz weapons

Below is a 2012 list of Spetsnaz units in the Russian Armed Forces:[26][27]

Listing of brigades

Since 2009–2010, Spetsnaz GRU forces have been resubordinated, now attached to military districts of the Ground Forces of the Russian Federation[25] and subordinate to the operational-strategic commands, due to Anatoliy Serdyukov's military reforms. In 2011, it was announced that some former Spetsnaz GRU personnel might return under control of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in some form separate and distinct from GRU, and answering directly to the General Staff. In 2013, Spetsnaz units were returned to GRU authority.

Its operations included Operation Storm-333, the successful mission to kill the Afghan president in 1979. During the 2000s, ethnic-Chechen Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad existed.

During Soviet times, Spetsnaz GRU operatives would have to complete training that included the following: weapons handling, rappelling, explosives training, marksmanship, counter-terrorism, airborne training, hand-to-hand combat, climbing (alpine rope techniques), diving, underwater combat, long-range marksmanship, emergency medical training, and demolition.

The primary function of Spetsnaz troops in wartime was infiltration/insertion behind enemy lines (either in uniform or civilian clothing), usually well before hostilities are scheduled to begin and, once in place, to commit acts of sabotage (such as the destruction of vital NATO communications logistics centers) and the assassination of key government leaders and military officers.

The situation was reviewed after the war ended, and between 1947 and 1950 the whole of GRU was reorganized.[23] The first 'independent reconnaissance companies of special purpose' were formed in 1949, to work for tank and combined-arms armies, which were tasked to eliminate amongst others enemy nuclear weapons systems such as the MGR-3 Little John and MGM-1 Matador.[23] In 1957, the first Spetsnaz battalions were formed, five to operate beyond the 150–200 km range of the reconnaissance companies. The first brigades were formed in 1962, reportedly to reach up to 750 kilometres in the rear to destroy U.S. weapons systems such as the MGM-52 Lance, MGM-29 Sergeant, and MGM-31 Pershing.[23] Two 'study regiments' were established in the 1960s to train specialists and NCOs, the first in 1968 at Pechora near Pskov, and the second in 1970 at Chirchik near Tashkent.[24] According to Vladimir Rezun, a GRU defector who used the pseudonym "Viktor Suvorov", there were 20 GRU Spetsnaz brigades plus 41 separate companies at the time of his defection in 1978.

Spetsnaz GRU during the War of Dagestan, August 25, 1999

The concept of using special forces tactics and strategies was originally proposed by the Russian military theorist Mikhail Svechnykov (executed during the Great Purge in 1938), who envisaged the development of unconventional warfare capabilities in order to overcome disadvantages that conventional forces may face in the field. Practical implementation was begun by the "grandfather of the spetsnaz" Ilya Starinov. During World War II, reconnaissance and sabotage forces were formed under the supervision of the Second Department of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces. These forces were subordinate to the commanders of Fronts.[22]

Anatoly Lebed was a famous operator of the 45th Spetsnaz regiment.


In 2010, following Russian Military reforms, Spetsnaz GRU were disbanded and instead placed into different divisions of the Ground Forces of the Russian Military; in 2013, however, some units were reassigned to GRU divisions and placed under GRU authority once more.[21]

Spetsnaz GRU are the elite military formations under the control of the military intelligence service GRU. It was the first Soviet/Russian spetsnaz. The word "Spetsnaz" is often written in all capital letters ("SPETSNAZ").

GRU Spetsnaz
Active 1949–2012
Country  Soviet Union
 Russian Federation
1991–2010 (under the GRU)
2010–2012 (Non-GRU)
2013–present (under the GRU)
Type Special Forces
Role Unconventional Warfare
Special Reconnaissance
Direct Action
Size Classified[20]
Part of Soviet Armed Forces
Russian Armed Forces
GRU Headquarters Khoroshevskoye 76, Khodinka, Moscow
Mascot Bat
Engagements Cold War conflicts
Soviet War in Afghanistan
Civil War in Tajikistan
East Prigorodny conflict
War in Abkhazia
First Chechen War
War of Dagestan
Second Chechen War
Insurgency in the North Caucasus
Russo-Georgian War
2014 Crimean Crisis

GRU Spetsnaz

GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Lebanon War "to improve Russia's image in the Arab world", according to Sergei Ivanov.[18] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.[19]

During the espionage and sabotage. This spy network was managed from Armenia by GRU Colonel Anatoly Sinitsin. A few days later the arrested officers were handed over to Russia through the OSCE.[17]

US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev but noted that Lunev had "exaggerated things" according to the FBI.[15] Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, "but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons."[16]


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